Immigration enforcement in the U.S. would be more targeted under President Joe Biden than under his predecessor, with authorities directed to focus on people in the country illegally who pose a threat, according to guidelines released Thursday, reports the Associated Press. Under Biden, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) would primarily apprehend and remove people who pose a threat to national security, committed crimes designated as “aggravated” felonies or recently crossed the border. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, portrayed the new guidelines, which are considered temporary until a permanent policy comes down in about three months, as a more effective use of resources at an agency that has about 20,000 law enforcement and support personnel. ICE officers and agents have expressed concern in recent days about a top-down directive that will limit their ability to conduct enforcement operations and inevitably result in potentially dangerous people slipping from their grasp, said Jon Feere, a senior adviser to ICE under Trump.
The new guidelines could shield a substantial number of people. The nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute estimated that 87 percent of noncitizens in the country without authorization would not be priorities for enforcement if Biden used the national security and public safety criteria as was done under Obama. In defending the new guidelines, DHS officials pointedly noted that they do not specifically exempt anyone from being arrested and removed from the U.S. if they are illegally in the country. But they set out a series of priorities for removal, and agents and officers would be required to get approval to pursue cases that aren’t in the three main categories. Also, weekly arrest reports would be submitted to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who has repeatedly said he wants to fix what he considers a flawed U.S. immigration system. ICE would otherwise have broad leeway to let a noncitizen stay in the country, with officers directed to consider such factors as ties to the community as well as personal and family circumstances and medical condition.